Liz Benigno

a view from the porch

The Perfect Party

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I decided when I was sick that when I got better Steve and I would begin to have an annual Christmas party. There was a small piece of me that felt it was too late to start anything annual (who starts new traditions at 53? By now we should be years into an annual Christmas party...) but that little voice is a liar so I pushed Mr. Lying Voice out of my head and began planning. 

I like planning and I like preparing and I like cooking so I felt excited that our first little annual was about to take place. But, as the party grew closer Mr. Lying Voice invited himself back into my mind. You see we live in a perfectly lovely modest house with a perfectly modest party planning budget, but it seems that EVERY SINGLE COUPLE WE KNOW are fine and fancy and are only modest because they choose to be, and not because their pocketbook dictates that they should be. 

The wine is too cheap, the food not catered, the furniture...is it too late to get a new couch here in time for the party - one that doesn't have one million down feathers pushing thru the fabric?? Mr. Lying Voice then invited his friend Mr. Lying Eyes and all I could see were the cracks, dings, and dust.

I think it's funny that God uses parties to remind me of truth. One morning just before the party He sat me down and reminded me that people don't want perfection. He designed his people for community and joy and connection.  I had an opportunity to create a space of love and gratitude. He also reminded me that if I invited Mr. Lying Voice and Mr. Lying Eyes instead of Him my party would stink.

Everybody came and guess what? Nobody cared about the cracks, dust, dings and cheap wine. After everyone left and I was cleaning up (is it weird that I love cleaning up late night after a party when the house is dark and quiet and the candles almost burned out?) He showed up. It was just the two of us quietly cleaning and enjoying the memories of happy connected chatter from just a few hours earlier. 

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Psalm 126:12 

 

 

Dear Young Marrieds

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Dear Young Marrieds~
Oh my goodness I have been to a lot of weddings this fall. All lovely in their own right. Each wedding with it's own personal stamp; barefoot brides, haute couture brides, country clubs, villas, industrial loft spaces and farmhouse settings. From full course service, to fried chicken with homemade pies. It's all been so dreamy and romantic.

My heart aches with tenderness toward you. Your little bitty newborn marriage is so squeaky fresh, and hopeful and full of promise. I want to thank you. You Young Marrieds have a way of breathing life into us Old Marrieds. Your enthusiasm and joy for one another, your quick way of serving one another, the tilted heads and shared secrets. It's adorable and convicting. So if you catch me leaving a cocktail* on my front walkway, or whispering to Steve in a public spaces, or leaping off the couch to fetch him something it's because of you and your enthusiastic kindness toward one another. 

And when your dreams begin to crash and life begins to shift and you feel less inclined to fetch and serve and whisper find an Old Married you admire and ask them how (and why) in the world have they managed it all these years. 

*The photo is from my newly married niece Annie who left this icy cold one for her husband to find after work. Notice the note (CRAZY ADORABLE RIGHT!?) 

Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate

Mark 10:9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missing God

liz benigno4 Comments

I'm irritable and out of sorts. I don't mean to blame it on my new dog Penny, but it's kinda her fault. No, I don't mean the poop found in my bedroom last night (just after bragging that she was housebroken). I mean the every morning, up early and playing with her before work. We don't have a fence, but we do have an enormous yard which means I need to be watchful so she doesn't wander away or get herself into trouble ( I didn't know mommy guilt could translate into doggie guilt). 

And then there's work. I love my work. I really do. I don't mean to blame it on work, but it's kinda at fault. Leaving the house at 6:50 every morning and not getting home until 5:30ish is wearing me out. When I get home I don't want to think about/do anything. Oh yes, there is still dinner to be cooked, wet laundry to move to the dryer, dishes in the sink (because I didn't feel like doing anything last night...), so I do all of that kind of stuff, but I just feel worn out. Wakeful, but tired. A good night's sleep isn't curing the tiredness I am feeling. 

Then it dawned on me, I am missing God. It's been a good long time since I've had any decent time alone with Him. When Penny arrived in August my whole morning routine of coffee, and quiet time in my cozy little reading room disappeared. A season of weddings (5 in 7 weeks to be exact) has left my weekends full of friends and joy, but zero time for my weekly bible study or time for reflection. I haven't seen the inside of a church in weeks and weeks.

I miss sitting and thinking and dreaming and confessing. I miss relief and rejuvenation that comes from thinking and dreaming and confessing. You know what I miss the most? Praying for my people. Yes, I still pray. The kind of toss it out there praying while I drive, but I miss writing out all of my hopes and dreams and fears for the people in my life. Sitting around "tired" worrying about my children is not the same as writing out my worries and fears in prayers offered to Jesus. I also miss my big God dreams. I have no idea if any of my big God dreams will ever come to true, but the time I spent thinking about how God has wired me and how He expects me to use my gifts was restorative.  

God hasn't gone anywhere. He hasn't moved one iota. I have though. Little by little, day by day I have slowly inched my way farther and farther away. I have put everything before Him out of "necessity" and where has it gotten me? No where. All that's happened is a tired spirit has settled inside of me. You know what happens next if I don't do something about it? Tired becomes grumpy, becomes angry becomes bitter. No thanks.

Is anyone tired alongside me? Maybe your spirit is missing Jesus too. 

I am determined to be tired no more. I am going to take a good long look at my day to day and make sure I find space for the One who created my day in the first place.  

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Isaiah 26:9

Disappointment

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Are there days when you feel like a disappointment? 

I let my boss down, I wasn't all that much fun the last time I went out with friends, and people are always surprised by my cranky non-spiritual attitude. Last year on the last day of chemo the nurses were all set to give me the big confetti send off when I said no thank you. I just wanted to quietly leave and never come back. They were disappointed. They asked me if I was sure. I was sure, but I felt badly letting them down. My friend Mark recently completed his chemo and there is a photo of him on Facebook celebrating the final treatment.  Mark, not letting people down, just made me feel all the more disappointing in the chemo send off department. 

 Disappointment implies expectations that fall short. People expect certain things from us and we inevitably fall short. It can make us feel lousy about ourselves and in turn make us feel low and sad and less than... 

And if and when we get there it gets dangerous. "You're just no good, or at least not good enough" is the whisper. 

Well, here's the best news: God isn't disappointed in us at all.  Why? Because He already knows what a hot mess we are! No expectations that have fallen short. I have never been able to fool Him into thinking I was anything more than I am. What a relief! I find this so freeing. Free to make mistakes, ask for forgiveness and move on. Free from a person's expectation that I be or do. And quite frankly I am certain Jesus could care less whether I had a confetti send off or not so why should I beat myself up over it? I need to concern myself with what matters to Him, and only Him and let everything else go.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”    Jeremiah 31:3